Former political prisoner and SHAC 7
defendent Jake Conroy is currently doing a speaking tour titled “From Activist to Terrorist” in cities across Europe. Jake has been a dedicated animal liberation activist since the mid 1990’s and even did time in federal prison for his involvement in the SHAC USA campaign, geared towards closing down the animal vivisection laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences
. I asked Jake some questions about the speaking tour and why it was so important to him, and what he thought others should get out of this tour. Check out the interview,
and click here for the Facebook event page
for the tour.
1) Jake can you tell us about your european speaking tour?
I am headed out on a 12 city speaking tour across Europe talking about my experiences over the last 18 years with activism, government repression, and being incarcerated in a federal prison as a political prisoner. The presentation focuses primarily on the history of the campaign to close the notorious animal testing laboratory, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), the organization spearheading the campaign in the US, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA (SHAC USA), the subsequent trial against the SHAC 7, and the government repression we faced both as activists and as inmates.
2) What made you want to name it “from activist to terrorist?”
The United States has a history of branding left-leaning and progressive communities as “domestic terrorists” in order to build a case against them and demonize them in the press and the public. The animal rights community is no exception. During the time of the campaign against HLS, SHAC USA, along with the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts were deemed by the FBI to be the biggest threat to national security. This was not because we were violent, but because we were putting major dents in the animal experimentation and financial industries; in capitalism. Corporations and governments were scared of us not because we were violent, but because we were an unapologetic, nonhierarchical, grassroots organization that was part of a movement that showed we didn’t need government, we didn’t need corporations, we didn’t need large fluffy organizations to make change; we could do it ourselves. Due to our successes, the government worked very hard to shift our image and the conversation away from activism and towards terrorism in an attempt to neutralize us.
3) Did you pick the tour cities based on anything? I see that you don’t have any dates booked in the UK and a couple other countries, why not?
We brought this presentation to 5 countries last September throughout Europe and I wanted to make sure I didn’t repeat any cities this time around. I’m hoping to bring the story to as many places as possible. Some locations however are an impossibility for me. The United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia do not take kindly to folks like myself who have criminal convictions. As someone who has 6 federal felonies on his record, as well as other convictions stemming from past actions, I am unfortunately not allowed into the Commonwealth.
4) What are your goals with this tour?
I think there is a lot to be learned from the campaign to close HLS, and the way SHAC USA was organized. How autonomous, grassroots groups, mixed with independent underground actions, and a nonhierarchical, horizontal structure of organizing could be so wildly successful against some of the world’s largest corporations.
I also find importance in sharing with people about the potential consequences of such campaigning, the different ways the government and private corporations fight back, and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of it, from the start to the finish. It’s important to demystify and end the romanticism of being a political prisoner, and to stress the importance of supporting those on the inside.
Finally, I want all of us to have those big and tough conversations about the possibility that perhaps our activist communities aren’t doing it right. We need to rethink how we campaign, the tactics we use, and burst our protective bubbles we put up around ourselves and to step down from the pedestals we place ourselves on. With smart strategies, solid tactics, and a dose of humility, I think we could be so much more, rather than continuing to follow the same failed blueprints we cling to. I want to spark conversation, debate, and a resurgence of smart grassroots movements.